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Power and Violence

Info: 2011 words (8 pages) Essay
Published: 10th May 2021 in Theatre

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Violence can be seen as the intentional use of a force which in favour, could link to power as it can grant the ability to influence power over others or get a point across. Both Tennessee Williams in “a streetcar named desire” and Bret Easton Ellis “American psycho” presents the link between power and violence as inseparable. Both novels American psycho and a streetcar named desire takes place in 1950-1990s, and in this time period gender roles and the social positions of those who did not live up to social norms became a problem. In the same perspective, there were significant socio-economic detachments between the classes, causing splits within society and a big difference between classes and their powers within society. Williams’s theme of violence may be rooted from his childhood where he was victim of abusive father, which is reflected in “a streetcar” as violence is a means of showing power. Ellis similarly, parents divorced when he was a teenager, and Ellis said his father was an inspiration for American Psycho as he was an alcoholic and abusive father also being a son of a property developer offered him a privileged life, which is reflected in the novel. These two authors essentially depict violence as a way of gaining power giving theme authority and control over weaker people.

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At first glance, power cannot be separated from violence, and is dependent on social factors; initially, both texts show how the patriarchal system is key to granting power to certain individuals. Written in 1947, Williams integrates the conventional gender roles existing in the society of the 1940s, which is first shown through the portrayal of Stanley as a dominant male. Tennessee Williams illustrates how Male figures in the play asserts power over women by abusing them with beatings or even rape. The main personality Stanley represents the stereotypical gender roles in the 1940s as it further embodies society’s views on man’s power over women. His introduction begins with a violent argument when he "heaves the package at her," this act may reflect his unjust relationship with Stella. Stanley presents himself as the provider of the family, making his authority and power over others in the household strong and known. Stanley is portrayed as a dominating, manly persona, which further strengthens 'ideal man' in this American society. Violence and power can be seen as inseparable. This is because when violence is expressed over individual’s humans tend to get scared at the person showing the violence and presenting the violent person's true power, this, in turn, allows men to control and restrict women and in this society, women are entirely dependent on the men in their lives (the post-war American society). Williams illustrates Stanley as having "the power of a rich feather bird among a hen", evident through his loud and animalistic behaviour as well as his several times where he abuses women, Stella, and Blanche. The characterization of Stanley may be rooted in Williams’s father as he was an abusive alcoholic and abused his wife. Therefore, Williams may have used this to create Stanley and may have mirrored his father’s aggressive actions through Stanley. Society's portrayal of Stanley's violence and anger allows him to keep women obedient and have more power over them. Further reinforcing the idea, that how the patriarchal system in this American society is key to granting power to certain individuals.

Similarly, Bret Easton Ellis’s portrayal of a Bateman as a wealthy successful man also positions him at the top of the social hierarchy. In this novel Patrick Bateman and his group of wealth, friends from Wall Street live this lavish life, buying nothing but the finest and look down upon on anyone who does not fit their rich standards. These characters are a sort of exaggerated stereotype of the 1980 society of which is commonly known as “yuppie culture” which Maybe Ellis does to critique and use this as a form of satire in this book. The main character Bateman has this mentality of the typical yuppie individual and this is seen straight in the first chapter ‘April fools’ when he encounters any person, he’s the first action is judging what they are wearing and if they are designer clothes or not. This reveals the character he is and further reinforces how society works in this time, wealth is and appearance shows a person’s worth rather than looking for personality. Ellis may have intentionally done this to emphasize that if you are not on top of the social ladder with wealth and status you are seen as worthless and powerless. For example, when Bateman mocks a homeless woman as “ugly an “old” and shows off his money in front of their face. This just reinforces that Bateman and his friends of Wall Street are the embodiment of rich humans in a capitalist patriarchal society. Also has these beggars or homeless do not have money or lavish objects like them, they are again seen as powerless and given no respect. Ellis Intentionally uses Bateman as a character who represents the social norms of a rich powerful man by violently using his status in society to enforce his power over others, which suggest power and violence cannot be separated. This idea of being rich and having the mentality that being rich grants them power and can use any way of showing that power and this case, Bateman use of violence could even be encouraged in this 1980 American society as these upper-class people just get away with it because of their status on society. All reflecting the careless and powerful nature of a capitalist society. Furthermore, the fact that Bateman is a male grant him even more power over others, just like Stanley in a streetcar named desire, Males in these two similar societies are always at the top of the ladder and will use any means necessary to express their power. This could be being wealthy like Bateman or just being a pure muscular man who uses his strength and violence to show power. Both authors emphasize how to attain power and show it, you must be high within the social hierarchy, as seen in a streetcar named desire society has limited women to be weak individuals and in American psycho, if you are not wealthy or seen as successful you are deemed powerless and worth nothing.

Moving on as ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ progresses, Tennessee Williams exposes the violence within patriarchal power. Williams portrays his theme of violence through the couple’s relationships with Stanley and Stella, Steve and Euincee, Blanche, and every male she encounters. This violence we see in ASND progresses through the play as the women are further abused by the men over time. An example of this is the character Stanley, this character himself progresses this theme of violence to a high extent. In the beginning it starts with ‘yelling’ and the ‘breaking of objects’, but where Stanley starts to feel powerless in certain situations, he progresses his violence to beating Stella and raping Blanche. Williams has intentionally done this to emphasise how men in this society will never let a woman show or be bigger than a male and this circumstance Stanley sees he is becoming powerless and shows his power and fit in this ‘patriarchal society’ where men are on top. For example, just right before Stanley fully rapes Blanche "Tiger-tiger! Drop the bottle top! Drop it we have had this date with each other from the beginning" This quote shows Stanley's true side of violence and animalistic behaviour. The idea of violence is with Stanley. This quote highlight how diminutive Stanley thinks of woman and stella his wife. He uses his status to get what he wishes and show his power as a male even if he has to use violence. The violence depicted within the play encompasses a sense of realism in the manner of way woman are treated and the way standard of living was in new olerans. It was common for domestic violence to occur and men in this society had a lot of authority over women and more so government agreed with this too. Moreover, in the society of today the violence in the play would never be tolerated from this novel and is quite inappropriate if it were to happen in this present. Today, when women are hit by their husbands they go to the police. However, when this play was made it was opposite of today and if a man was to bit is wife, the police would not care much about it. Stanley wants to earn respect from women and is successful in doing this. Perhaps this was Williams intention to show the harsh reality of how women were treated during this era.

Unlike Williams, Ellis exaggerates and satirises the violence linked to Batemans social status as a rich powerful man rather than being just a normal man showing power over just women like Stanley. However, Bateman and his rich assets allow him to be violent and seem above everyone in society because he is rich. As the book carries on Ellis uses the theme of violence as almost the engine of the book that drives the plot and storyline. American psycho features plenty of violence which throughout the novel this violence is shown towards people of the lower social place who are threatened, humiliated, and killed. Most often Bateman makes a decision to apply violence towards the homeless and prostitutes. But the only time Bateman actively makes use of violence in opposition to somebody from his personal social background is that the killing of a possible competitor, specifically paulOwen. Besides, that incident. violence is only used for the poor. While Bateman represents the white upper class, wealthy, and the yuppie of the mid-Eighties, he tries to purify his surroundings at the same time as he purified his house and himself, at least from his eyes. He shows and does this by killing the poor, homosexuals, and prostitutes. This means that the elimination of those, in Bateman’s view, grimy factors of society. It's his own graphic way of gentrification. The massive influence of the rich lifestyle on Bateman was done intentionally by Ellis to again satires and exaggerate how social status is an excuse for the upper calls to think less of the poor and can use any force necessary to downgrade them or in this case kill them.

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Ultimately both authors show Power and violence cannot be separated because violence is how men show power. In ASND Tennessee Williams establishes how Male figures in the play asserts power over women by abusing them with beatings or even rape. The main personality Stanley represents the stereotypical gender roles in the 1940s as it further embodies society’s views on man’s power over women. This is again evident When Stanley hit Stella, he demonstrates his power over her. Stanley's violent actions to Stella show that he did not see her as a normal human but more of some property that he ownsinstead. Stanley's views towards Stella highlights the unswerving relationship to the way society saw men as superior to women.  Another example of how power and violence cannot be separated is when Stanley rapes Blanche to show his final act of power. This final and most extreme act of violence over Blanche secures both his power and his victory over her, leading to her being institutionalised into a mental asylum. Moreover, when Stanley raped Blanche he showed his intense need for control and power over others especially women. The fact that there were no serious repercussions for Stanley’s actions represent that society did not view women as anything more than the animalistic thoughts that men had toward them. Overall, Williams presents the basic representation of what society was like in this era and how men was always seen as superior to women and Williams shows how men will show this power through violence. In contrast Ellis ends the book with a confession from Bateman- despite this, the novel still concludes with Bateman being victorious and un accounted for his actions, like Stanley, going unpunished which reinforces the idea that power and violence cannot be separated.


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